Three is the Magic Number

three-wise-monkeys

Fridge needs a new thermostat,  washing machine springs a leak, and you find yourself warily eyeing the other kitchen appliances wondering what next. These are not recent occurrences in my life but I’m sure you’ll identify with the concept of things, good or bad,  happening in threes.

The reason we buy into this belief is ‘the rule of three’ phenomenon.  It is common in both the literary (Three musketeers, Three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears) and spiritual worlds (mind, body and spirit or Father, son and Holy Ghost) and in rhetorical devices used by writers as a way of engaging readers (Friends, Romans, Countrymen …).  So strong is the power invested in the number three that it is often used as a persuasion technique in advertising (remember the Mars bar slogan: ‘helps you work, rest and play’), and in speeches; who could forget Tony Blair’s “Education, education, education” pledge?

The number three has figured rather nicely for me recently. In the past few days, I have celebrated three pieces of good news:

1. Proud mum moment: Last year my son decided to return to university to complete the final year of his degree, abandoned sixteen years ago. With a full time job and his two youngest children just fifteen months old and newborn (actually born the same week as his course started) he began his studies. I’ll be honest here, I thought the timing could have been better (understatement)! Working late into the evenings, crying babies through the night and 7.30am starts at work and assignments submitted with only hours to spare took its toll; although he mostly denied it, I could see that he was pretty stressed out. But he did it and a few days ago his determination and hard work was rewarded when he heard that he had gained a very respectable  2:1 . We’re now looking forward to his graduation in September .

2. Sigh of relief moment: I  received the all-clear following a biopsy on two breast lumps.

3. YES! moment: I have a new job. Thanks to the changes in pension age, I now have to wait until I am 66 before drawing my state pension so this meant that after completing my degree last year I needed to return to work. There’s not a great deal of choice for a sixty year old woman who has been out of the workplace for several years and is seeking part time hours over three days. In fact, at the time, I could find nothing so had to compromise my ideal and take what was on offer – a mixture of afternoons and all day Saturday as a supervisor in a shoe shop. One of the largest independent shoe shops in the UK, it has around fifty, mostly part time, staff. Yes, it’s a big one! And it’s busy. I have spent my days going up and down the 42 stairs over and over and it’s played havoc with my knees and ankles. BUT, on 1st August I will be going back into a HR role for three (that number again!) ‘long’ mornings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Three is the magic number (Blind Melon)

“Three is a magic number
It is, it’s a magic number
Somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity
You’ll get three
As a magic number
The past, the present, the future,
Faith, and hope, and charity,
It’s a magic number”

Seven things you might not know about me

Glasgow Rose

I’m a bit of a rocker at heart
It’s left over from my youth.
Springsteen, Deep Purple, The Stones, The Who
But Strauss and Chopin suit me too

I’m a little in love with Art Nouveau
I adore ‘The Glasgow Style’.
Dazzling stained glass and geometric line
But the Mackintosh rose is my favourite design

I’m more than a tad scared of flying
I do it under greatest duress.
Morocco, Croatia, Italy, France
But it’s Ireland that makes my heart dance

I’ve a passion for Green & Black’s chocolate,
Oh the way that it melts in my mouth.
Maya Gold, Chilli and Ginger too
But when feeling desperate, Bourneville will do

I really enjoy entertaining
I think I’m a bit of a chef.
Tagines and tapas and Sunday roast
But the best thing of all is cheese on toast

I adore a floral aroma
I specially choose what I grow
Lily and Lilac, Sweet Pea and Rose
But lemon verbena gets right up my nose!

I’m ace at being a Nanny
I am better at this than all else
Bicycles, dolls and The Gruffalo,
But I do like the peace when they finally go.

A little bit about me

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Eloise is not my first name but when I started reading and responding to a particular blog, I found that there was already someone with my name and I didn’t want to be confused with her because I didn’t agree with what she was saying!  I like Eloise better anyway.

I am a sixty year old mother of three and grandmother of five. You don’t get to my age without having made a few wrong decisions and I’ve made my share. But along the way, there have been a some right ones too and sometimes a decision turns out to be so very right that you just can’t believe your luck.

That’s how I felt when, after many years working in HR, training and health & safety for an international energy company, I took voluntary redundancy with the intention of finding a part time role where I would no longer have to drive thousands of miles a year. I allowed myself a bit of breathing space and the job never happened because one morning my daughter, a college lecturer, suggested that I could possibly think about a “course in something”. That afternoon I mailed The University of Worcester – just an enquiry; a vague notion that there might be something to interest me. The reply was almost immediate. It was already August and too late to bother with UCAS so I should send a CV and personal statement, it said. Five days later, the day before my fifty-seventh birthday, I was interviewed and offered a place there and then.  It was that quick. I was in shock. I called my daughter.  “They’ve offered me a place,” I said, tears running down my face. “I can’t believe it. I never thought they would take me.”

“I never thought they wouldn’t,” she replied.

Always one to analyse decisions, deliberate the pros and cons, and make plans for ‘just in case”, I can barely believe that not for a single moment did I have a any doubts about this; not once did I question what I was doing. It was as if I had been biding my time; waiting for this moment. Three weeks later I was a full time mature student – a fresher on the Bachelor of Arts degree course studying English language with Creative & Professional Writing.

During the first weekend an intensive writing retreat was held.   Oh, how I enjoyed it, every moment. It’s hard to describe something as the best ever because that somehow diminishes the importance of the rest. Nevertheless, this weekend was up there with the best. It confirmed, gloriously, that I had made the right decision in deciding to commit the next three years of my life to studying.

I was, by a good many years, the oldest on my course and friends asked how I ‘got on’ with the young students, some young enough to be my grandchildren. I told them that I got along fine; they were like any other group of people, some I liked a lot, others I had less to do with.  When we were struggling with an assignment or waiting for our grades, we were all in the same boat and I was just one of them. At first there was some mild bemusement, but if thought it strange that someone my age should decide to join them, they never said.

Three years later, each time I drove through the university entrance I still felt lifted by the sheer wonderfulness of having been granted such a fabulous opportunity.  I discovered a drive and focus I didn’t know I had and my hard work was rewarded not once, but twice with scholarships for £1,000 each for Outstanding academic achievement. But the best part was when, in 2016, I graduated at the wonderful Worcester Cathedral with a joint First Class B.A. (hons.).

As a student my income was tiny compared to what I used to earn and given that my husband, several years older than me, had just retired, spending inevitably had to be curtailed but new clothes, once bought with barely a thought, no longer mattered. Indulgent holidays, regular spa breaks, my passion for beautiful shoes all gave way to …what?  Well, nothing really because the somewhat startling truth was, that for those three years, I no longer needed any of those things. Content and fulfilled in a way that I had never before been, I was, and remain, a different person.

What’s in a name?

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Well, here it is … the first post on my new blog, This is Sixty.

I pondered for some while over the name. Ensure that your blog name tells people what you are about I was advised, but did I really need that? My aim wasn’t to attract scores of followers or related advertisements (indeed, I paid for an upgrade in order to avoid exactly that).   The fundamental reason for setting it up was as a hobby, a vehicle for my writing, which might cover all manner of subjects….what I like, what I think, what I feel, what I do. I might even post the odd bit of flash fiction, a poem, a recipe. It’s MY blog after all. Self indulgent perhaps, but I wanted a name that captured the essence of ME.  So I pondered for longer…..and then longer still.  I considered, rejected, decided, changed my mind and despaired.  How could it be so difficult?  Then one evening I received a mail from an old school friend inviting me to her 60th birthday party and the train of thought that this set off provided the solution.

I am very fortunate in having a large circle of friends and acquaintances, some older, a few younger, and several whom, during 2016/7 would, like me, celebrate their sixtieth birthdays. I was the first.  Sixty! I could barely believe it then and it still sometimes brings me up short several months on. How on earth did that happen? Where have all those years gone?
“So what’s it like being sixty, then?” a younger friend had asked me shortly after my birthday celebrations.

Well, sixty is certainly different from what it used to be. My earliest memories of my grandmother, Kitty, date from when she would have been only fifty seven or eight. Even then she was an old lady. Her mode of dress at home was, almost without exception, a wrap-around pinafore or pink nylon overall, designed to protect (let’s not mince words here) her decidedly old-lady clothes. She wore flat brown lace-ups, sometimes with ankle socks and I never once saw her in the heels. I’m sure she’d have thought them totally inappropriate for someone her age. I don’t recall ever seeing her wear makeup, not even a smear of lipstick.  Her social life certainly didn’t involve meeting up with girlfriends for a pub lunch (perish the thought) or a spa day.

Sixty in the 1960s was considered pretty old – not ‘the new 40’ or ‘the new 50’ as it is variously described today, not middle-aged (it still isn’t technically speaking, but if we take middle-aged to mean the middle of adulthood, we might just stretch it). Sixty was just OLD. And it was only a decade away from the three score years and ten that was then generally considered to be one’s lot.

But that was then and this is my friends and me now – highlighted hair, always made up, nails painted and clothes that could be just as well worn by someone thirty years younger (provided they had good taste, of course)!  I don’t consider myself at the forefront of musical modernism but take a look at the CDs in my car and you’re just as likely to come across Guns ‘n’ Roses or Springsteen as Mendelssohn or Strauss. Friends of mine now in their seventies are no different.  We might be grandmothers (and in a couple of cases even great-grandmothers) but we go to the gym, lunch with girlfriends, drive our own cars and generally do whatever is reasonable to avoid giving in to our advancing years, (I say ‘reasonable’ because I draw the line at surgery or injecting my forehead with toxins)!

“So what’s it like being sixty then?” my friend had asked.
I pointed to myself and said. “Like this. THIS is sixty.”

I hope you’ll drop by again.